Funding for grassroots initiatives to fight radicalisation


Eight projects launched by citizens’ groups, non-profits, schools and even a group of mothers have been selected for funding from the government of Flanders

Spirit of community

Education minister Hilde Crevits has allocated €200,000 to eight projects that have the goal to reduce the risk of radicalisation among youngsters in Flanders. Some of the selected projects, which have been developed by schools as well as associations, help youngsters with study options and homework, while others train teams to deal with challenging situations in classrooms.

“The education sector can play a crucial role in preventing radicalisation and polarisation,” said Crevits in a statement. “These eight promising projects involve parents, residents and volunteers from the local community.” The initiatives will later share experiences with each other and with the broader education sector.

The selection was carried out following two calls for applications for subsidies. The first call asked for projects that assisted disadvantaged youngsters and helped prevent them from dropping out of school. The second call focused on the prevention of polarisation at school and the management of specific situations in class.

Democratic dialogue

The subsidies went to initiatives in Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Kortrijk, Genk and Vilvoorde. A project at Brussels’ Erasmus University College, Verbindende dialoog in de klas (Unifying Dialogue in Class), received the largest amount: €77,000. It is linked to the institution’s Democratic Dialogue initiative.

The project will train schoolteachers as well as lecturers and students in teaching studies to become dialogue coaches, with special expertise in dealing with polarisation. An online toolkit will be developed as well.

The 1001 Schakels project in Vilvoorde has received €20,000. Vilvoorde, just outside of Brussels, is known for the high percentage its young people who left to fight in Syria. The project was launched by several mothers in the city to help vulnerable youngsters to resist radicalisation attempts.

Radicalisation is the result of various factors, but segregation in education forms a breeding ground for it

- Professor Ides Nicaise

The non-profit offers homework assistance, organises lectures where youngsters speak for themselves and provides a youth coach to pupils who have problems at school. The projects works especially to get parents involved in their children’s daily lives.

The citizens’ project Uilenspel in Ghent, which targets children in the third year of pre-school and the first grade of primary school, received €25,000. By helping pupils with schoolwork at an early age, the organisers hope to prevent them from having failing grades or from dropping out of school later. Volunteers visit the children and their family at least once a week.

Education expert Ides Nicaise of the University of Leuven says that, while the local initiatives are very valuable, the need for structural change is crucial for them to work – especially in secondary education. “Research shows that the development of democratic attitudes, like respect for gender equality or cultural differences, is linked to the level of segregation in education,” he says. “Flemish secondary education is extremely segregated, both socially and ethnically.”